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Empowering the Next Generation of Fraud Fighters: Insights from ACFE Research Institute Grant Recipients

As recipients of the ACFE Research Institute (ARI) grant, Marie Rice and David Glodstein stand at the forefront of advancing the field of fraud examination and prevention. Rice, an Assistant Professor at Siena College and Director of the Center for Anti-fraud Resources and Examination Services (CARES), and Glodstein, a seasoned educator and director at SUNY Old Westbury, embody the synthesis of academic excellence and practical expertise. Their current project, focused on the Justice for Fraud Victims Project (JFVP), aims to set new benchmarks in community-engaged forensic accounting education and practice. By developing a best practice guide for academic institutions, their research not only promises to enhance the effectiveness of the JFVP but also to foster a new generation of skilled fraud examiners. This initiative highlights the vital role of the ACFE Research Institute in empowering researchers and practitioners to innovate and contribute significantly to the global fight against fraud. 

What is the focus of your current research under the ACFE Research Institute grant? 

Rice: The focus of our current research project is to develop a best practice guide for schools around the U.S. that have implemented or are considering implementing the Justice for Fraud Victims Project (JFVP). The JFVP is a community-engaged, interdisciplinary collegiate program that provides forensic accounting services to small businesses, nonprofits and vulnerable adults who might not otherwise be able to afford such services. Teams of students, supervised by CFEs and faculty, perform pro bono forensic accounting analyses on cases of alleged financial crimes or occupational fraud, working closely with the alleged victim, law enforcement officials and members of the legal profession. 

Our study will help schools mitigate issues with adopting and managing the JFVP to facilitate its continuation and future success, as well as capitalize on the efforts and experiences of schools involved in the JFVP to help future participants in the project. 

Glodstein: There are three possible extensions to our project. The first is based on the current demand for information about the JFVP and the ACFE’s promotion of the project with ACFE Chapters. The audience of our current research is the academic community and a natural extension of the project would be to provide additional best practice guidance to law enforcement, an information booklet about the JFVP and how to manage it for ACFE chapters. A second extension of this project would include the development of a model through which JFVP participants can share resources to improve the likelihood of long-term success. Some of the biggest challenges that exist with schools operating the JFVP are a lack of cases or a lack of students; however, lockdowns showed us how to work more efficiently and effectively as remote employees. Therefore, this project would provide a way for schools to share human capital (I.e., students, faculty, and CFE mentors) and cases across a secure platform similar to the way law enforcement agencies operate. Finally, a third extension of this project would include longitudinal studies of the student participants and their career paths. We know that many of the students who participate in the JFVP become CFEs and some go on to become chapter leaders, but we have not previously had the resources to track their and ACFE chapter perspectives. 

How do you believe your research will contribute to the field of fraud examination and prevention? 

Rice: This research project promotes the Justice for Fraud Victims Project, which increases student interest in the anti-fraud profession and many of the students in the project become CFEs and some have become ACFE Chapter leaders. Our project provides a best practice guide for academics looking to implement the JFVP, which leads to students becoming anti-fraud professionals.  

Glodstein: I believe that we can use our research with the JFVP as a mechanism for future fraud fighters to develop their skills to prevent fraud, as well as a research and teaching tool to educate individuals, small businesses and non-profit entities on the risks of fraud. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your research? 

Rice: One of the biggest challenges we faced was collecting data. Our dataset was small, but collecting the data was time-consuming because of our methodology. To collect data, we conducted interviews of academics at each of the schools we were aware of who implemented or are currently running the JFVP. We asked the academics to then forward survey links on to the CFEs, students and members of law enforcement who worked on the JFVP with them. The survey asked respondents to complete open-ended questions, which meant it was also time-consuming for them. We had planned for these challenges, though, and structured our study to analyze the text of the responses we received.  

Glodstein: Creating awareness about the JFVP and how students can be a resource in helping victims of fraud. Also, connecting academics with ACFE professionals/investigators to be mentors and a resource for cases to be handled by the students. 

What do you believe are the practical implications of your research for fraud examiners? 

Rice: Our research directly impacts the anti-fraud profession by helping to both recruit future anti-fraud professionals and a mechanism for current anti-fraud professionals to offer pro-bono services to vulnerable victims. 

Glodstein: The practical implications for the research are the best practice guides that we can provide to create resources for students and victims. We also hope to create awareness about the JFVP so CFE’s can become mentors to the next generation of fraud fighters. 

What advice would you give to fraud examiners and researchers interested in applying for an ACFE Research Institute grant? 

Rice: The ACFE provided every significant opportunity in my career. Joining as a student member opened my eyes to the anti-fraud profession, provided me the opportunity to grow a strong network locally and globally, and helped me learn from mentors like Joe Dervaes, Bob Holtfreter and Bethmara Kessler.  I had the opportunity to join the Spokane Chapter of the ACFE during its formation early in my career, and I was able to make connections and develop my professional network in a meaningful way. As a chapter leader, I met and worked with anti-fraud professionals from various industries, which led to advancements in my career, opportunities to collaborate with high integrity professionals, and my involvement with the JFVP.   

The ACFE also supported my transition to academia through the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship. Leaving practice to become a full-time student was a big shift for me and my family, but thanks to the generous support of the ACFE chapters and donors, I can now inspire future anti-fraud professionals daily.   

Researchers interested in an ACFE Research Institute grant should learn as much as they can about the anti-fraud profession and read Fraud Magazine and other practitioner journals as part of their literature review to ensure their project is relevant to practitioners and helps the profession. Researchers should also reach out to their local chapter to hear members’ anecdotes and even to seek their advice on the research project before starting. Collaborating with those who do the work will help enhance the relevance and impact of the research. 

Glodstein: The ACFE has provided support, through the ACFE Education Partnership, and resources that we use in our fraud examination and other fraud courses. Also, the ACFE, through its continuing educational resources, keeps CFE’s informed with current events in various types of fraud. 

I would strongly encourage fraud examiners and researchers to present their research to the ARI. The feedback from presenting your research can be extremely helpful in guiding both your current and future research. 

SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

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